Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Patrick interviews Jared Donaldson in Memphis

This weekend, our occasional contributor Patrick Rourke made the trip to Memphis, Tennessee to watch a few days of the ATP Memphis Open, a 250 event. He was kind enough to put together a few posts - the first such post being this interview with wildcard Jared Donaldson following his first-ever ATP win, 7-5 6-0 over Stefan Kozlov.
Image via Wikipedia.com
P: Jared, first of all, congrats on your win last night. Your first ATP win, talk about what that meant to you.
J: Well it’s a really big accomplishment. Obviously it’s a good step forward, and it’s just another step to get to where I want to be, which is someday hopefully winning a grand slam. I just have to look it as one match at a time, that’s how I’ve always looked at it, and this tournament is not over. Obviously it feels really nice today, but tomorrow I have to go back out there and play a good match against either Sam or Ben.
P: Stepping down a little bit to Challengers, and Maui two weeks ago, you had some success and you played doubles with Stefan there. Talk about how hard it is to go out and play someone who you know so well, and who you spent a lot of time with just a week or so ago.
J: Well obviously it’s hard to play someone who you know, but in a way it almost makes it easier. I actually talked to my sports psychologist Sunday night, and he said “just look at it as fighters.” Because actually Stefan texted a picture about an article from ESPN Tennis “Is Jared Donaldson America’s Next Big Star?” and I think he was trying to make me a little bit nervous, or psyche me out a little bit, but my sports psychologist said, “That’s great that Stefan did that, because a lot of guys I work with are fighters, and if they have a big fight coming up and know each other really well, they’ll say 'okay let’s put on a good show and let’s go out and get that paycheck.'” And Stefan and I are playing tennis, we’re not punching each other (laughs), so that makes it a little bit easier.

Photo: Patrick Rourke

P: You hit with Roger Federer last off-season. What did you take from that? Is there anything that you’re still applying, either towards your game, or just towards handling life on tour?
J: Well the biggest thing that I took from him was his ability to open up the court and to spread the court really well, his accuracy on his shots is amazing and he is able to take the ball really early. And that’s something that I had never seen before -- obviously I had never seen a level like that, he’s the greatest of all time -- so I had never seen anything even close to that. But he took the ball extremely early and he had really good accuracy on his shots. And that was something that Taylor [Dent] had said, because that was when I first started working with Taylor, and Taylor came out to Dubai, and what Taylor had told me was what Federer was doing in his practices. So probably the biggest thing that I took away from it was my belief in Taylor’s coaching. Because I’m a little bit of a stubborn guy, you know, I don’t take advice blindly, so when I saw Federer do things that Taylor wanted me to implement in my game, that really gave me a lot of confidence in Taylor’s coaching ability and what he knew about tennis.
P: Talk a little bit about Taylor, and how he’s been there before. Obviously you have Mario [Llano, his junior coach from Rhode Island] whom you've been with since you were six, but Taylor has made the climb up the rankings before, so how is he helping you manage that climb?
J: Well I think he keeps it very objective. One of the first things he texted me after Maui, when everyone else was texting me “great job,” was “good job, but how aggressive were you?” Before, after I had just won a Futures, he goes “I don’t even think I’d get excited if you won a Challenger, I’d be excited if you started winning tour events, that’s when I’d get pumped up.” So he keeps it very objective, and I think it’s good, because it’s easy for people to just be content where they are and say “well I've really accomplished a lot,” but that’s not what he’s doing, and it’s helped me a lot too. I always felt the same way, but I think now it’s really a clear objective, because he’s been there. He’s won tour events, multiple ones, he’s won Challengers obviously, so he really keeps it with a clear head, and says “the journey is not over, and we've got a long way to go if you want to be where you want to be. If you want to be just a Challenger-level player, you don’t have to improve your game. But if you want to be a great player, you have to keep working at it.
P: Talking a bit about that “journey,” what are your goals for this year? You’ll be able to get in to all the Grand Slam qualifying draws now, and you only have Futures points to defend. Is the US Open main draw something you’re looking at? Is that a goal?
J: (smiling) To be honest, I am looking at US Open main draw. Maybe, possibly, if I can sneak my way into the top 100 that would be great, but whether I get top 100 this year, next year, or, you know, tomorrow, it doesn't matter. It’s really about improving my game, because if I get to a certain spot and I’m not improving…well I’m either going to stay there or I’m going to go back down. So at some point I’m going to have to improve to get to where I want to be. So if I finish in the same spot but I’m improving my game, I’m going to be really happy with that, so we’ll just see how it goes.
P: One more question, since you’re towering over me now, how tall are you?
J: 6’2.
P: Are you sure?
J: I’m 100% positive, and if I said anything else Taylor would give me a look, because he’s a little bit over 6’2 and I am not taller than him. So he would give me a little bit of a look if I said I’m 6’3. I’m not 6’3, I’m 6’2.
P: Well I’m 5’11 and I think you’re more than 3 inches taller than me…
J: Well I’m wearing Nike Air Max so I have a little bit of an advantage.

P: And I’ve got boat shoes on so there you go. Thanks Jared, and best of luck going forward.

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